-Meeting 9: Anthropocene

Wednesday, October 10, 2 PM to 4PM, 

at RIA . Facilitated by Petra Halkes

Please RSVP researchinart.ria@gmail.com for your personal invitation and the address

Please note: As Rene and I are away for part of October, our next discussion will take place on thesecond Wednesday this month, not the usual third Wednesday.


1. 4Cs’ Direction in its second year.

2. Anthropocene, the word, the exhibition.

Summer readings sent in by members have been moved to the Bookshelf

1. 4Cs’ Direction in its second year.

This October, the Capitalism, Colonialism and Climate Change Study Group has been meeting at RIA or at local galleries for one year.

It may be time to ruminate a little on where the group wants to go in the second year, what it wants to read, see, and learn about. 4Cs is a group without a teacher; as initiator and communicator I wait (more or less!) for people to suggest directions.

This time I will facilitate the discussion (and choose a text to read.) I suggest we give ourselves a bit of time for self-reflection at the beginning of our meeting and discuss some ideas that have been floated:

Rob Snikkar let me know that he would like to discuss white privilege with us, sometime soon. It is an important aspect of (de)colonialization, which is an issue that we will continue to grapple with in a series of discussions on reconciliation, that we have inserted in the 4Cs study group. That series takes place at Gallery 101, with Carmel Whittle, G101’s indigenous outreach person. Carmel and I will be planning another session in the fall, in which people will be invited to bring a piece of their art work and talk about their concerns with appropriation in relation to this work. Date TBA.

Note: In the October 10th meeting we will not be talking yet about our dormant proposal for an exhibition, Collab for Change. Wait for this, later this fall.

Please note that (some) documentation, discussions and suggested readings of previous 4Cs sessions can be found on the RIA Website. (works better on your computer than on your phone, sorry)

Topic 2: Anthropocene, the word, the exhibition.

RIA has endorsed the Systems Change Not Climate Change event organized by the Ottawa New Socialists that will take place on October 13. The event consists of a gallery tour and public meeting on the occasion of the opening of the National Gallery of Canada’s photo and film exhibition, Anthroposcene. You can find the poster and a link to their facebook page here: https://researchinartottawa.wordpress.com/news/

Recommended Reading and viewing for 4Cs’ October 10 meeting:

If you missed the opening and/or the curator’s tour of the exhibition Anthropocene at the National Gallery of Canada, I recommend you see it before our meeting:

Free Admission to the National Collection

  • Every Thursday 5–8 pm
  • Sunday September 30, 2018 (Culture Days)


Suggested Reading:

Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chtulhocene,” Donna Haraway in conversation with Martha Kenney, in: Heather Davis and Etinne Turping (eds), Art in the Anthropocene – Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. Open Humanities Press 2015.

Please note that one of the editors of this book, Heather Davis, will be speaking at the NGC on November 24.

You can access a pdf with Haraway’s conversation directly HERE.

Why I chose this text:

I hope you will like this text. Read it as poetry. A conversation rather than an essay, it gives no tightly argued theses, but breaks boundaries and wanders off in loops and figures, throws curves and bends and turns words to uncover new meanings. Haraway plays with words that are borrowed and invented, sometimes absurd, sometimes scientific, but always based in the biological, the visceral organic motility of growth, life and death. Her earthiness and her strong conviction that there is no space between nature and culture–humanity is completely entangled with nature– encourages tactile, visual thinking. What could be more inspiring to artists?

This text is not only good reading for our discussion on the Anthropocene, but also for our reflection on where we want to go as a group. We want to remain flexible, open to all, working and thinking together. So pay attention to what Haraway says on sympoiesis – making together. We’ll also use one of Haraway’s favourite words, tentacular. With fingeryeyes we will remain open to urgencies and snatch opportunities as they appear! With Haraway’s words we can “figure” our group.

As for the Anthropocene discussion, look at the argument she makes for changing the word to Capitalocene. Rather than blaming our species as a whole for Climate Change, Capitalocene points to a cause, a cause that can be addressed. Such a word opens up response-ability, rather than helpless communal guilt.

Haraway’s remarks on the word Anthropos as opposed to human, are particularly pertinent for our conversation. She said:

The Anthropocene has had a conflicted etymological history. A number of experts think of anthropos as ‘the one who looks up from the earth,’ the one who is earth-bound, of the earth, but looking up, fleeing the elemental and abyssal forces, “astralized.” “Human” is a better figure for our species, if we want a species word, because of its tie to humus, compost.”(p.233)

Though earthbound, the idea of human as Anthropos, ‘the one who looks up from the earth,’ gives us a sense of vision as distanced. If our eyes can go that far into space, we can imagine being there, far above earth and death, in the infinite heavens. We can imagine, and actively search for, a godly view of earth, a panoramic view that gives us a sense of control over all that we see below. This will give us, we imagine, a feeling of oneness with the world, while at the same time gaining a sense of power over all. (endnote 1)

In giving us just such a panoramic view of the destruction of the earth through his aerial photographs, what is the effect of Burtynski’s exhibition Anthropocene on its viewers? Could we talk about that?

Haraway talks about re-figuring our surveying vision that has been so potent in shaping our western, industrialized colonizing culture: “[ ] vision can be figured as

touch, not distance, as entwined with, or negatively curving in loops and frills, not

surveying from above.” (p.232)

Haraway’s haptic vision leads us back to art practice. Her interest in artists, which include writers and especially sf writers who have become, she says, “more and more essential to my material practice,” comes as no surprise,(p.237)

So I’ll end my introduction here with a link to a website for the Hyperbolic Crochet CoralReef Project initiated by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, that Haraway talks extensively about:


Enjoy and be inspired!

And let me know if you plan to attend our discussion on the 10th!



1. I wrote about this most recently in an essay for Shirley Yik’s exhibition Anthrop-o-rama in RIA’s Artist Project Room